My practice explores the complexity of relationship dynamics. Relationship dynamics are never static, but always changing and fluctuating. They are continuously renegotiated which may lead to psychological tension between people. People are closely interconnected and effected by the things that happen in our contemporary world – as a whole society and within smaller groupings such as a nuclear family. I feel there can be communicative inequality within the nuclear family and question whether this has an impact on our identities, where some individuals have more agency or voice than others. The social politics of the family can have a deeply personal, philosophical and psychological effect on our lives.
In her book The Faraway Nearby, art historian and writer, Rebecca Solnit discusses the concept of developing her voice within the constructs of her family life and how being a writer helped her to unpack and realise the complexity of her ever-changing relationships.1 This methodology has influenced my thinking and practice by helping me to realise that I too am using the creative expression of painting as a capacity to develop my voice within my life. Even though I seem to do this subconsciously, I find it to be an important motivation that drives the context of my practice giving me a dialogical space for communicative reason.
In my studio I am making work in response to the idea of how we are effected by our ever changing relationships by giving myself individual agency as well as a form of agency to my subjects through their figurative presence.
Through figurative painting I aim to use powerful and emotionally-charged imagery to evoke intellectual or emotional engagement I am drawn to using the visceral and vulnerable body as a potent signifier of lived experience. I am aware of my subjectivity by directing scenes or poses that articulate my intention. My subjects, are not truely subjects, but instead symbolic entities- lacking cognitive identity, acting only as vehicles of manipulated expression.
Art historian Isabelle Graw proposes that painters are often projected onto their paintings, creating the “phantasmatic impression” of their presence, that then turns out to be an absence.2 I understand this to mean that the painting is saturated with the life of the artist, both through the works chosen subjectivity and through the works physicality, leaving the physical trace of the artists presence and gesture in the work. My practice is exploring ways of redefining the traditional subjects of figurative painting against a psychosocial discourse of relationships.
To help redefine and explore new processes I am currently very interested in the sixteenth century working drawings of Michaelangelo. I am looking into his methodology of sketching, which he used to test ideas as seen in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Michelangelo Buonarroti, Studies for the Libyan Sibyl, 1510-1511.
"You can see him thinking on the paper, going from one side to another, turning the sheet around. He doesn't pause. He just fills it all up,"3 a quote by David Morgan from CBS News. I find these drawings help me to reconsider the composition, lighting and space in each of my works. I find them useful for inspiration to help me figure out how best to portray the effects of relationship dynamics. Through this diversification of my figures, I aim to find ways to increase the pathos, to give a more compelling depiction of my artistic intent. I am intrigued by his use of light and shadow in the detail of the anatomy of the human body.
Furthermore I am especially moved by his incomplete works, that are partially painted, as seen in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Michelangelo Buonarroti, Unfinished cartoon for a Madonna and Child, 1525-1530.
I understand that he may well have intended to complete the paintings, but I find the rawness of these unfinished works evoke a vulnerability and a tenderness that I would like to achieve in my work. This would support my desire to achieve an authentic representation of the psychological atmosphere that I aim to convey. As well as help me to craft my voice and the voice of my subjects with a sense of restrained caution.
By researching writers, thinkers and other artist’s in my territory I attempt to gain a deeper understanding of my work with a view to developing a richer and more complex practice.
1. Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby (Great Britain: Granta Publications,2013),22.
2. Isabelle Graw, The Love of Painting: Genealogy of a Success Medium ( Berlin: Sternberg Press,2018),9.
3. David Morgan, “ The divine drawings of Michelangelo,” CBS News, December 10, 2017, https://www.cbsnews.com/amp/pictures/the-divine-drawings-of-michelangelo/.
Graw, Isabelle, The Love of Painting: Genealogy of A Success Medium. Berlin: Sternberg
Morgan, David. “The divine drawings of Michelangelo.” CBS News, December 10,2017.
Solnit, Rebecca. The Faraway Nearby. Great Britain: Granta Publications,2013.
1. Michelangelo Buonarroti, Studies for the Libyan Sibyl , 1511, red and black chalk or charcoal, 289mm x 214mm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, accessed May 21,2022, https://www.cbsnews.com/amp/pictures/the-divine-drawings-of-michelangelo/.
2. Michelangelo Buonarroti, Unfinished cartoon for a Madonna and Child, 1525-1530, dimensions unknown, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, accessed May 22, 2022, https://www.cbsnews.com/amp/pictures/the-divine-drawings-of-michelangelo/.